The P’shat and D’var of Challah

One Friday afternoon my wife and I were discussing some things I had learned at Torah study when I mentioned the concepts of p’shat (the plain text or simple story), and d’var (text extended with meaning and background, layered with insight that might be opinion but should make the portion more accessible to the reader). After hearing my somewhat labored explanation, my wife (who studies with the Chabad women and knows waaaaay more than I do) smiled. “I think you are making this harder than it needs to be.” she said, “Put it into terms you understand. In our class we used “making challah” as our example.”


  1. Break 2 eggs into a bowl and add water until it all measures 1.5 cups
  2. Put egg & water mixture into baking pan of bread machine
  3. Add 4 cups flour to bread machine
  4. Add salt, sugar, and oil to bread machine
  5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add yeast
  6. Turn on mixer and let it run for 1 hour
  7. Take out dough and place on floured surface
  8. Divide dough into 6 even parts
  9. Roll and braid 3 pieces together into a loaf (so you have 2 loaves)
  10. bake on 350 for 35 min until golden brown

D’var is, by definition, an interpretation of the plain text. So it can be twice as long as the p’shat instructions:

  1. Take out bread machine, measuring cups and bowl.
  2. Put away pots, pans, tupperware, calculator, diapers, and clean up baby powder that toddler took out while he was “helping”.
  3. Measure out all ingredients.
  4. Clean up and re-measure flour after toddler “helps” measure the first batch.
  5. Mix eggs and water and pour into bread machine pan.
  6. Change toddler and baby into dry cloths after toddler pours the water.
  7. Take out animal crackers, cheese, apple, and cereal to occupy toddler.
  8. Change baby’s diaper and nurse him.
  9. Change baby’s diaper again and change his outfit since he pooped/peed/spit up.
  10. Wash hands.
  11. Add dry ingredients and yeast to the egg and water mixture.
  12. Re-set bread machine after toddler “helps” by pushing all the buttons.
  13. Put toddler up for nap.
  14. Put toddler back up for nap.
  15. After an hour, take out dough and divide into 6 even parts plus 1 eckel for toddler to braid.
  16. Put dog in crate when she tries to eat toddler’s eckel.
  17. Give toddler water and a cookie after he tries to eat his own eckel.
  18. Roll and braid dough and bake on 350 for 1 whole Blues Clues video (including previews).
  19. Put toddler and dog outside while bread cools.
  20. Wrap and put in high place until Shabbat.

“See?” my wife said, still smiling. “Isn’t that easier to understand?”

I got the diaper bag and stroller out, then told the toddler to get his shoes on so we could go walk the dog. Taking the baby from my wife, I told her we’d be back in about an hour.